Hello, Arleen

In this recent post, called “Goodbye, Levenwick”, I showed photos of my poor, departed Levenwick cardigan.  Despite my love for the pattern, it didn’t fit, it looked sloppy, the fabric bunched and I never wore it.  When I discovered a moth hole in it, I took my scissors and started to rip.  Well, it’s Goodbye Levenwick….Hello Arleen:

IMG_6212Arleen is a simple T-shirt pattern designed by Dona Knits (Ravelry link here).  I was in the mood for a fast, simple knit and this fit the bill.  I didn’t even have to knit a gauge swatch since it has the same gauge as Levenwick, so as soon as I finished ripping, I cast on and started knitting.

IMG_6209Arleen is a top-down raglan, knit in the round.  I made three small modifications.  FIrst, I didn’t like the way the pattern makes the raglan increases (with a kfb, kbf), so I used M1, k1, slip marker, k1, m1.   This makes a much neater raglan, at least for me.  Second, the pattern says to start waist decreases at 7 inches after the sleeve separation.  I don’t know about you, but I am considerably higher waisted than that; I started the waist decreases at 4″.  Then, I made an extra set of waist decreases, offset by an extra set of hip increases.  This makes a lovely, shapely sweater, that is not too fitted.

IMG_6197This T-shirt took me 12 days from start to finish, including blocking.  I am sure there are knitters out there who could whip it out in a couple of days.  If you are looking for something fast, cute and comfortable, this definitely fits the bill.  (Another plus, the pattern is available for free.)

However, the very best thing about this sweater is that it perfectly matches my Stripe Study Shawl:


This shawl was the topic of my very first blog post in October 2011.  It was desiged by the talented Veera Välimäki.  I knit it with two skeins of Wollweise “Pure” 100% Merino Superwash.  I don’t seem to have recorded the colour of the brown, but the blue is called “Aquarius” and is an astoundingly good match for the Cascade 220 in colour 2433 with which I knit Arleen.

IMG_6226I think I will get a lot more use out of this than I did out of Levenwick.  In fact, since I finished it, I keep thinking of making another one, say in black, and maybe a red one, and fuschia would look good, perhaps emerald, oh I know, rust, or navy,  maybe charcoal……..


Goodbye, Levenwick

I have been trying to decide for some time which of my knits to feature in my next Wearability Wednesday post.  In the WW series, I re-visit a garment I’ve knitted and examine it in terms of wearability.  I try to address the questions:  Do I actually wear it?  If so, how do I style it?  What do I wear it with?  Do I dress it up or down?  If it doesn’t get worn, then why not?  What doesn’t work about it?  Is it a fit issue, or just a poor choice in garment style?

I finally decided to focus this week on Levenwick, a design by Gudrun Johnston for Brooklyn Tweed; published in BT’s Wool People, vol. 1.   Here is the pattern photo for Levenwick:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

I instantly loved this pattern (though I hate the headscarf).  I was certainly not the only one.  Levenwick has proved to be very popular.  Interestingly, when I look at my blog statistics, one of the most frequently used search terms is Levenwick; a lot of knitters are clearly interested in the pattern.  (Levenwick is also the name of a small village in Shetland, but I imagine most of those searching for it are looking for the cardigan.  Maybe that’s knitting-centric of me?)

I knit Levenwick in September and October of 2011.  I used Cascade 220 in a very pretty teal.  I have written a number of posts about Levenwick, which can be found here (this will link to all the Levenwick posts, including this one, scroll down to read the older ones).  Here is one of the photos we took when it was first finished:

IMG_0118Emma took this photo, and I really like it.  I love the way it looks against the peeling wall and I especially love the contraposition of the teal and the rust.  You can see that the Cascade looks great, the stitches beautiful and uniform.  But you can also see that the fit is not good.  The whole area around the shoulders and yoke is awful and the fabric bunches.  You can imagine, with Emma in charge of the photo, that this is as good as Levenwick ever looked on me.  This photo is the result of Emma adjusting and pulling and re-adjusting, and me not moving.  As soon as I move, even the slightest bit, the bunching looks worse.

Knowing what I do now about the fit issues I had with Levenwick, I can see some of it in the pattern photo.  Though not as pronounced as mine, you can see the fabric bubbling under the model’s chin.  I still think the pattern is lovely, and many knitters have made great-fitting versions of Levenwick.  However, try as I might, I found my version of this cardigan to be pretty unwearable.

Now, when I wasn’t holding completely still and pulling the sweater into place just so, the poor fit became even more pronounced:

IMG_3535The above photo was taken in the stands at the Olympics (a fabulous day watching the rowing).  You can see how happy I was to be there.    You can also see that this sweater doesn’t fit at all.  It just doesn’t.

Here’s another photo, from the same day, taken from a different angle (and yes, that is me, knitting at the Olympcs – Score!):


Let’s face facts: it doesn’t fit.  I tried to wear it, I really did.  I tried it buttoned all the way up.  I tried just buttoning the top buttons.  I tried just buttoning the bottom buttons.  I tried leaving it open (a real no-no).  I am usually good at knitting a garment that will fit properly.  One of the problems with the fit is that the pattern starts by knitting a long strip of lace for the collar and then picks up stitches and knits down.  The collar, however, is really too wide, so no amount of adjusting the pattern as you knit is going to make it fit.  The only way I could have gotten a better fit was to rip the whole thing out and start over with a much narrower strip of lace.  In addition, the raglan sleeve increases just didn’t work out at all.  This could result from my gauge rather than the pattern; my stitch gauge was spot on but my row gauge was off.  Raglan decreases are one of those areas where the right row gauge is essential.

On Saturday morning, I finished knitting Leah’s February scarf and blocked it.  Afterwards, I decided to grab my Levenwick and take some more photos in preparation for writing this post.   This is what I found:

IMG_6115A moth hole!  Holey moley!  (Pun intended.)  Now, I could probably fix this.  But, I rationalized, why fix the hole when I’m not going to wear the sweater?  And before you could say “Goodbye, Levenwick” I had the scissors out and started cutting.


This sweater took a very long time to frog.  Because of the way it’s constructed, frogging was not straightforward.  I put on my headphones and listened to an audiobook (Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold; very enjoyable start to the Vorkosigan series) and spent hours steadily ripping it out.  (Frogging, by the way, is the highly technical term we knitters use to denote ripping out your knitting. I have been told it’s because you “Rip it! Rip it!” – which sounds like the English word for what frogs say.)

I no sooner finished frogging, then I grabbed some needles and started to knit.  I didn’t even take the time to steam out the kinks in the yarn.  (The knitting thus looks pretty uneven but I am fairly certain it will steam out when I block it.)  And what, you may ask, am I knitting?  Well, you will have to stay tuned to this spot to find out.


Leaves and Levenwick

Here it is, my finished Levenwick.  It should have been a really fast knit, but as I was unhappy with the fit, and had various issues with the sleeves, and the edgings, I kept putting it aside and working on other things.  I blocked it on the weekend, and this morning got up really early, sewed the buttons on and then wore it to work.  Emma took these photos on campus taking advantage of a beautiful fall day and a rusty wall.

If I were to start over and knit it again, I would do many things differently.  I knit it with about an inch of negative ease, but I think it would benefit from even more.  I can see from looking at others on Ravelry, that it often looks too roomy – it really needs the negative ease to look right.  On the other hand, the sleeves as written were too tight, so I added some ease to the sleeves.

The biggest problem is that the raglan sleeves are too deep; I really wish I had separated off the sleeves an inch or two before I did.  It throws off the fit of the entire sweater.  I also wish that I had used a smaller needle on the lace portions (I used a US8 for the body of the sweater and a US7 for the lace edgings; I should have used a 6 to give it a bit more structure.)  Also, the neck is too wide –  I would make the neck shorter, and also have fewer stitches along the top front, to avoid the buckling around the neck.

In case you think this sound really negative, there are things I like as well.  I love the way the Cascade 220 knits up, and especially the way it blocked, which magically eased away many potential problems.  I like the way you can button it up, or leave it half unbuttoned and get two different looks.  I think the reverse stockinette stitch works well with the shape and the lace edgings.  The asymmetry is good.  Plus, although I’ve worn jeans in these photos, I think it will work well with a skirt or a pair of nice trousers.

Sleeve troubles

I loved the two new books of patterns released by Brooklyn Tweed this fall.  I had quite a few of them on my radar, but my eyes kept being drawn back to Levenwick, an asymmetrical cardigan designed by Gudrun Johnston.  I like her design style, and the cardigan seemed right – fast, cute, suitable for the office, nice weight.  I ordered some Cascade Heather wool in 2433 (Pacifica, a teal with slightly more green than blue), and was off.

The knitting was fast and seemed to be progressing well.  I finished the body of the cardigan in under two weeks, and just had the sleeves and finishing to go.  I fully expected to be wearing this within a week.

And then it began….sleeve troubles.  I never have been one to enjoy knitting sleeves in the round.  Unlike nearly everyone else on Ravelry, I actually like to seam, and I’ve never knit a sock, so I don’t have much experience with DPNs.  And I realized once I began that I have never purled with DPNs.  Now I am not one of those knitters who dislikes purling; in fact, I have never found there to be much difference between knitting and purling in terms of ease or comfort levels or speed.  I discovered once I started the sleeves, however, that when I tried to purl on DPNs, I got terrible ladders at the point where the needles joined.  Nothing I tried seemed to help  (adjusting tension, pulling on the yarn, moving the joints around the needle, etc).

Clearly I needed another approach.  I spent an evening looking at youtube videos of various knitting in the round techniques (without the sound, as I was watching a movie with the kids at the same time – and I always tell them not to multitask!)  I decided to try the method using two circular needles, and though I gave it an honest go, I had no luck eliminating the ladders.  Finally, after knitting an entire sleeve, I ripped it all out, and stewed for days in annoyance.  My three week sweater was no longer.  (I should also mention, for those knitting Levenwick, that the sleeve was much too tight.  I planned to cut back on the decreases when reknitting.)

My next step was to learn the Magic Loop method.  This, in my opinion, was the best overall option, and helped reduce the ladders, but not entirely (plus the added benefit that there are now only two ladders instead of three or four around the circumference of the sleeve).  Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the extremely frustrating and ladder-ridden sleeve the first time around, but here is a close up produced in the reknit sleeve using Magic Loop:

I am hopeful that these can be blocked out for a nice finish, and I am much happier with the fit of the sleeve, having started the decreases later, and making two less sets than called for. A very nice touch is the i-cord edging on the sleeves.  I don’t think I’ve done this before.  Gudrun’s instructions are very clear and the results are lovely.  You can see it on the right side in the photo above, but that doesn’t show it off well since the cardigan is knit in reverse stockinette stitch.  Below is a photo with the sleeve turned up to give a better look at the edging.  Now, on to the second sleeve!